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Study: Significant increase in birth defects of IVF babies

Birth defects are more common when conceived with fertility drugs.
Birth defects are more common when conceived with fertility drugs.
Jae C. Hong/AP

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Researchers crunched the data of 124,000 babies conceived with the help of technology and found they were a third more likely to suffer birth defects. The reason for the increased risk is unknown; the fertility treatments themselves may not be the cause.

Still, the scientists who published in the reputable journal Fertility and Sterility say a 37 percent increased risk is significant. Statistics show major birth defects occur in three out of every 100 babies born in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. This new risk assessment would imply four out of 100 babies born using in vitro fertilization (IVF) or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) could have defects.

Many would-be parents use reproductive technology because of existing health issues or age. Those factors could be contributing causes.

How do these new statistics square with previous studies? Are parents and fertility clinics taking too many risks using IVF and ICSI? What are the rights of an unborn child when you factor in these risks? Why isn't there more scientific research into the health risks of reproductive technology?


Arthur Caplan, Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Richard J. Paulson, MD; Director of USC Fertility; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine; Dr. Paulson's work has extended to fertility in women over the age of 50 and, in 1997, he reported a successful pregnancy in the oldest woman on record at the time, aged 63.